World evangelist Billy Graham, 99, dies
Billy Graham's contributions to race relations were recognized by the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute and the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith
Evangelist Billy Graham at his home in the mountains of Montreat, North Carolina, in 2006. Photo: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images embed
Billy Graham preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (MNS) — Evangelist Billy Graham, perhaps the world’s most visible emissary for God in the last half of the 20th century and beyond, died Feb. 21at his home in Montreat. He was 99.
The Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA) released a lengthy press narrative of the life and ministry of Graham, noting that throughout his life, he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people who attended one of his more than 400 Crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies in more than 185 countries and territories. He reached millions more through TV, video, film, the internet and 34 books, the BGEA released.
Born Nov. 7, 1918, four days before the armistice ended World War I, William Franklin “Billy” Graham Jr. grew up during the Depression and developed a work ethic that would carry him through decades of ministry on six continents.
While Graham’s primary focus was to take this message to the world, according to the BGEA, the organization also noted that he provided spiritual counsel to presidents, championed desegregation, and was a voice of hope and guidance in times of trial.
In 2001, Graham was a comforting voice for America speaking at the National Cathedral in Washington, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the BGEA, and at three global conferences held in Amsterdam (1983, 1986, 2000), the evangelist gathered some 23,000 evangelists from 208 countries and territories to train them to carry the message of Jesus Christ around the world.
During the week of his 95th birthday in 2013, Graham delivered his final message via more than 480 television stations across the U.S. and Canada. More than 26,000 churches participated in this My Hope project, making it the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s largest evangelistic outreach ever in North America.
Information on the BGEA website shares that Billy Graham may be best known for his evangelistic missions or “Crusades,” noting that he believed God knew no borders or nationalities. Preaching to millions from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Zagorsk, Russia; Wellington, New Zealand; and National Cathedral in Washington, affirms this. In 1973, Graham addressed more than one million people crowded into Yoido Plaza in Seoul, South Korea — the largest live audience of his Crusades.
Preaching in Johannesburg in 1973, Graham is quoted on the site proclaiming, “Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world… I reject any creed based on hate… Christianity is not a White man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s White or Black.”
Graham is known for taking positions that were not widely popular such as his denunciation of racism when desegregation was not popular. According to BGEA, before the U.S. Supreme Court banned discrimination on a racial basis, Graham held desegregated Crusades, even in the Deep South. He also declined invitations to speak in South Africa for 20 years, choosing instead to wait until the meetings could be integrated, which occurred in 1973.
In 1996, Graham and his wife, Ruth, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can bestow on a private citizen. He was also listed by Gallup as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men” 61 times — including 55 consecutive years (except 1976, when the question was not asked). Graham was cited by the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute for his contributions to race relations and by the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith.
“There were a few times when I thought I was dying, and I saw my whole life come before me…” Graham was quoted at his Cincinnati Crusade on June 24, 2002. “I didn’t say to the Lord, ‘I’m a preacher, and I’ve preached to many people.’ I said, ‘Oh Lord, I’m a sinner, and I still need Your forgiveness. I still need the cross.’ And I asked the Lord to give me peace in my heart, and He did — a wonderful peace that hasn’t left me.”
Graham’s wife of 64 years, Ruth, preceded him in death in 2007. He is survived by his sister Jean Ford; daughters Gigi, Anne and Ruth; sons Franklin and Ned; 19 grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren. A private funeral service is planned at the Billy Graham Library, on a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the ongoing ministry of evangelism at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, online at BillyGraham.org or via mail, sent to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, NC 28201. Notes of remembrance can be posted at BillyGraham.org
Billy Graham Evangelical Association contributed to this obituary